Sunday, March 04, 2007

Movie Review: Amazing Grace

When I explained to a potential date that the movie I wanted to go to was based on the protracted effort of a member of Parliament to bring about the end of the British slave trade, I watched her eyes glaze over as she wondered exactly how boring I must be. However, she agreed to go, and we both found the movie to be well worth it.

Amazing Grace is a rare movie that manages to be a compelling drama for someone only interested in a good story while also displaying a considerable amount of historical and philosophical subtlety. Thus, the movie successfully differentiates the classical liberalism of Wilberforce and his allies from both the status quo conservatism of his Tory adversaries and the radicalism of those who would import the French Revolution. It also manages to emphasize the Christian underpinnings of British abolitionism without becoming preachy or pedantic. Wilberforce is the hero of the tale, but he is no superhero. The movie emphasizes the impact of the struggle on Wilberforce's health, as well as the periods of doubt and mistakes he made in his efforts.

One of Wilberforce's allies was John Newton, the author of the classic hymn Amazing Grace, from which the movie gets its title. Newton was a former captain of a slave ship who later fought to end the slave trade. While the title should help draw Christians to the movie, in some ways it is unfortunate, since non-Christians may assume the movie to be something they would not want to see. This is a great story for either Christian or non-Christian, and the religious underpinnings show Christianity in a way that it is rarely seen in modern pop culture. Wilberforce's Christian philosophical foundations helped form his political classical liberalism, which led him to support humanitarian reforms including, but not limited to, the abolition of the slave trade.

I highly recommend the movie.


Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

I would have loved to have seen this movie.
Did you lose my #?
I got stuck, instead, doing a review of the Cameron "documentary."

4:21 AM  

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